Joint sitting: Parliament gets rolling with dagga Bill

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Dagga Lab.(Son)
Dagga Lab.(Son)
  • Dagga may not be smoked in public if the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is passed in its current form.
  • Criminal records for previously busted weed smokers could be expunged if they didn't deal in it.
  • Parliament will not reach the deadline the Constitutional Court gave it, but the status quo will still hold until the bill is passed. 

People will not be allowed to smoke weed in public if the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is passed in its current form. But if you were busted with a cannabis cigarette previously, your criminal record may be expunged if you didn't deal.

The Justice and Constitutional Development Department briefed the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on the bill on Friday.

Last month, Cabinet approved the bill and referred it to Parliament. This bill was ordered by the Constitutional Court.

The bill would remove restrictions on the commercial cultivation and production of hemp. However, the police "raised a concern that it is not possible for them to distinguish between hemp and cannabis which may make enforcement difficult," according to the department's presentation to the committee.

READ| Parliament to puff and pass Cannabis Bill

The bill would also address the limitations the Constitutional Court found impermissible of sections 4(b) and 5(b) of the Drugs Act on the right to privacy of an adult person to use and possess cannabis or cultivate cannabis plants in private for personal use.

It would regulate the private use of cannabis by an adult in the following ways:

  • Limit the number of cannabis plants that may be cultivated by an adult and impose restrictions on the cultivation of cannabis plants for private use;
  • Limit the quantity of cannabis that may be possessed by an adult and impose restrictions on the possession and storing of cannabis; and
  • Criminalise the smoking of cannabis in a public place, or in a private place in the presence of non-consenting adults, in the immediate presence of a child, within a prescribed distance from a building or where the smoking may cause a hindrance to others, or the consumption of cannabis at a place prescribed by regulation where consumption of cannabis is prohibited.

Furthermore, the bill will also provide for measures to protect children "against the harms associated with cannabis through criminal offences".

It would also provide for proportional sentences which a court may impose for the offences mentioned above.

There would also be provision for the expungement of criminal records of persons convicted of the offences of the use or possession of, but not dealing in, cannabis.

The Constitutional Court made its ruling on 18 September 2018 and gave Parliament 24 months to make the required legislative amendments.

Parliament was not expected to reach this deadline. It rose for a recess on Friday and would reconvene in the first week of October.

However, the committee heard that the interim relief ordered by the Constitutional Court would apply until the law was amended.

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